Pitching prowess powers PV past Aztec

With its win over Aztec, Piedra Vista is now two wins from its 10th state title in the last 11 seasons

Karl Schneider
Piedra Vista's Haley Parson tags out Aztec's Sarrah Jones  at the plate on Thursday in Rio Rancho.
  • PV's pitching strategy helped the team secure a 6-2 win in the third round of the state tournament.
  • The team had lost twice to the Lady Tigers during district play this season.
  • Now, the Lady Panthers will play No. 2 Centennial at 9 a.m. Friday.

RIO RANCHO — The Piedra Vista softball team couldn’t find a way to crack rival Aztec in the regular season, losing twice to the Lady Tigers during play in District 1-5A.

But PV found a winning formula against its foe in the game that matters most.

Meeting in the third round of the 5A state tournament, No. 4 PV switched back and forth between pitchers Aleja Armenta and Ananda Delegarito to keep top-seeded Aztec’s potent offense off balance and pick up a 6-2 win today at the Cleveland High Softball Complex.

Delegarito started for PV, facing the Aztec lineup once before Armenta came into the game in the third inning. Armenta saw everyone in Aztec’s lineup once before Delegarito re-entered the game. PV continued with the strategy for the length of the game, ensuring no Lady Tiger saw the same pitcher twice in a row.

"Actually, that wasn’t even the plan. The plan was to not let them see the same girl more than once," PV head coach Kevin Werth said. "We were going to run out our No. 3 and 4 pitchers, but we saw how effective Ananda and Aleja were, and they’ve been our two go-to girls all year, so we thought we’d change the plan and go back and forth with those two. And what an awesome job they did."

Piedra Vista's Aleja Armenta (15) hugs Ananda Delegarito during their game against Aztec on Thursday in Rio Rancho.

Armenta, who pitched in PV’s 8-2 win over Los Lunas prior to the game against Aztec, said going from the bench to pitching, back to the bench and then on the field again wasn’t a tough challenge after she fulfilled a similar role last season.

"Coming from last year, with the role that I played, I had to do that a lot. I was pulled off the bench a lot, so I was used to it. I definitely liked the strategy coach Werth had. I think it kept them off balance," the senior said. "This game was different for me because I didn’t have the best outing when we played Aztec earlier, but I held my head high, had confidence and went through the mental side of every pitch."

Offensively, PV got its lead-off batter on in each of the first five innings.

The Lady Panthers scored once in the first after an Aztec error in left field allowed Tyra Garcia to score from third.

PV (20-8) added two more in the fourth after a lead-off triple from Cheyenne Stark, who finished the day 6 for 6 at the plate in PV’s two games. Stark came in to score later in the inning after an Aztec error. PV scored its second run of the inning on a wild pitch.

Piedra Vista's Cheyenne Stark hits a triple against Aztec on Thursday in Rio Rancho.

"We have a lot of darkness going on, and we’re trying to overcome some mental aspects, and it’s more than just playing," Aztec head coach Roy Johnson said. "One player’s grandfather passed away on Monday. This is a tight-knit group, and when one person loses a member of her family, it affects all of them."

Aztec (23-6) got its offense going in the top of the fifth with a two-out rally.

Trinity Pollock doubled, and then back-to-back walks to CheyAnne Simkins and Sarrah Jones loaded the bases for Paige Adair, who ripped the ball down the third-base line and into the left-field corner.

Pollock and Simkins came in to score standing up, and Aztec gave Jones the green light for home. But the Lady Panthers fired a bullet to the plate and catcher Haley Parson tagged Jones for the third out of the inning.

"That was huge momentum for us," Werth said. "Even though they scored two runs, that play at the plate was huge."

The Lady Panthers took the momentum into the bottom of the fifth with a three-run inning.

Stark and Natalie Martin came up with RBIs for the first two runs, then Martin came home on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.

Earlier in the day, Aztec overcame a shaky start and knocked off No. 9 Artesia (17-12) 7-3 in the second round.

Leading 4-3 after the fifth inning, the Lady Tigers opened up a healthy lead in the sixth after freshman Jocelyn Ulrich blasted a solo home run over the right-field wall to spark the team.

"It’s amazing how far that little ninth grader can hit the ball. She does it consistently, and we’re really proud of her," Johnson said.

Aztec's Jocelyn Ulrich hits a double against Artesia on Thursday in Rio Rancho.

Aztec added two more runs in the inning with RBIs from Ashlee Garcia and Simkins for thee 7-3 final.

Aztec will face No. 3 Roswell (22-7) in an elimination game at 9 a.m. Friday.

Also earlier in the day, PV had little trouble with No. 5 Los Lunas (17-12), beating the Lady Tigers 8-2. But the win could have been much more one-sided.

The Lady Panthers piled up 12 hits in the game, but stranded 10 runners.

PV didn’t take long to get things going at the plate, scoring six runs in the second inning while batting through the lineup.

Defensively, the Lady Panthers made plays when they needed to. Armenta struck out just one batter, but didn’t give up a walk while her defense kept Los Lunas scoreless until the top of the seventh, when PV already had an 8-0 lead.

With its win over Aztec, PV is now two wins away from its 10th state title in the last 11 seasons. The Lady Panthers will play No. 2 Centennial (23-5) at 9 a.m. Friday. Centennial held off No. 6 Miyamura 3-2 in 11 innings this afternoon. PV and the Lady Hawks met on March 12 in Las Cruces, where Centennial picked up a 12-1 victory.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.